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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Limbaugh's "Ching Chong" Racism

Limbaugh's bizarre anti-Chinese racism on his show yesterday has already drawn criticism from Salon, Media Matters, and State Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco, who asked for Limbaugh to apologize for his "pointless and ugly offense" and called his comments “sadly indicative of the bigotry that has often plagued his commentary and lined his pockets."

The 20 seconds of babbling “ching chong, ching chong cha” that Limbaugh imagines to be Chinese can't really be transcribed, you need to hear it:

There's a powerful irony here. As I note in my forthcoming book, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh's Assault on Reason (Thomas Dunne Books, March 1), in 1984, Limbaugh was lucky enough to have a friend recommend him to replace Morton Downey, Jr. who was forced out of his job at KFBK in Sacramento, California. Downey had told a joke about a “chinaman” and refusing to apologize. So Limbaugh got his big break in talk radio because of another host's racism. And to be honest, what Downey said wasn't any more racist than Limbaugh's “ching chong” babbling yesterday.

But Limbaugh's rant went beyond just mocking a foreign language for being, well, foreign to him. He also used the occasion to denounce President Obama for the terrible crime of listening to it:
I wonder, to the people that can't speak English, what does it sounds like to them? Because when I hear Chinese or Japanese, it sounds like all the same word, and I can't comprehend of anybody understanding it. Of course that's silly. But he's sitting there, (speaking phonetic Chinese)...and they cut to Obama looking intently as though he understands every word of it (which, what would you expect from the Ruling Class?)

Yes, what else would one expect from the Ruling Class dictator like Obama but for him to listen politely to a foreign leader speaking a foreign language? What, exactly, did Limbaugh expect Obama to do? After all, one of Limbaugh's heroes is Richard Nixon, the man who opened up relations with China.

Beyond racism, it's not clear exactly what Limbaugh has against China. Limbaugh claimed that the Chinese in Africa “are becoming the most vicious colonialists in history,” which once again goes to prove that Limbaugh doesn't understand anything about colonialism or history. According to Limbaugh, “They're buying up -- just as you say, they're buying up -- regional resources. They're letting the locals starve, essentially.” So the Chinese are bad because they're engaging in....capitalism?

It's difficult to make any sense of Rush's incoherent rants. Does he hate Chinese people because of communism, capitalism, colonialism, or just because they speak Chinese? Or is this racism simply a way for Limbaugh to connect with his xenophobic audience?

On his show today, Limbaugh defended himself, claiming that “I did a remarkable job...for someone who doesn't know the language.” Limbaugh complained, “Sid Caesar was called a genius for interpreting foreign languages he didn't speak.”

Of course, Limbaugh's bigotry against the Chinese is minor compared to the anti-black tirades and slurs that he regularly makes. But it's a reminder that Limbaugh's hatred knows no bounds.

Crossposted at DailyKos.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Limbaugh's "I Hope He Fails" Two Years Later

“I hope he fails”: with these four words uttered by Rush Limbaugh about Barack Obama on January 16, 2009, a political revolution began. Limbaugh's words about Barack Obama were powerful. Hoping for failure eventually became the policy of the Republican Party, which voted in lockstep against virtually every proposal by President Obama and the Democrats to help ease the recession inherited from the previous administration. Two years later, what Limbaugh said about Barack Obama has been established as the dominant Republican position.

Limbaugh got the failure he hoped for: the recovery from the Bush Recession was slow and inadequate to stem the inevitable rise in unemployment. Voters who expected an economic miracle punished the Democrats in the polling booths on November 2, 2010. Jeffrey Lord in the American Spectator declared that because of Limbaugh's “I hope he fails” line, “it is Rush Limbaugh who is the undisputed winner of the 2010 election.” Lord called Limbaugh's comment “exactly the point where the path to the conservative victory of 2010 began.”

Two years ago, Limbaugh's declaration was controversial. Even televangelist Pat Robertson (the man who blamed 9/11 on God's punishment of America for gays and feminists and said the Haiti earthquake was caused by a pact with the devil two centuries ago) denounced Limbaugh as irrational: “That was a terrible thing to say. I mean, he's the president of all the country. If he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if he doesn't, it hurts us all. Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally.”

Limbaugh later recounted how South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford privately told him “it was crazy for me to say I hope Obama fails.” When a politician who flies to Argentina to meet his mistress thinks you're crazy, it shows how far out of the mainstream Limbaugh's “hope he fails” comment was.

By October 2009, Limbaugh was desperately trying to rewrite history. He told the Today Show, “Every one of these ‘critics’ knew and knows exactly what I meant. They are taking this as yet another opportunity to say, ‘Whoa! Limbaugh wants America to fail!’ and that's such BS.”

But Limbaugh was explicit in declaring that he not only wanted Obama’s agenda defeated, he also wanted the country to suffer when Obama’s proposals were enacted. On February 13, 2009, Limbaugh told his listeners about the stimulus plan: “I hope it prolongs the failure. I hope it prolongs the recession. Because people are going to have to figure out here that this is not how economies recover. Government is not the central planner.” Yet Limbaugh's declaration, “I hope it prolongs the recession” as the definition of failure was ignored by a pile-up of apologists trying to defend Limbaugh comments. Even Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), once a nemesis of Limbaugh’s, said: "I'm sure when he's saying he wants the president to fail that he's talking about his policies; he made that clear.”

In fact, Limbaugh had made it clear that he meant much more. Limbaugh said: "Of course I want Obama to fail. And after this stimulus bill package passes, I want it to fail."

Back in 1993, Limbaugh had a very different approach to Democratic failure when writing his second book, See, I Told You So: “I sincerely don’t want Bill Clinton to fail, unless failure is defined as the defeat of his current economic policies.” But by 2009, a media star making more than $50 million a year could wish for his fellow Americans to suffer in poverty and become the hero of the conservative movement.

For Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans, hoping for the failure of America was one of their most successful career moves.

Crossposted at LimbaughBook.

John K. Wilson is the author of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh's Assault on Reason (Thomas Dunne Books, March 2011)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Limbaugh's Violent Rhetoric

Today is Rush Limbaugh's 60th birthday, and I want to give him a birthday gift that he rarely ever gets: the truth.

When Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik called Limbaugh “irresponsible” for using false information to get people angry at the government, Rush denied that there was any evidence of him using violent rhetoric against the government (which wasn't what Dupnik said): “He has not been asked, by the way, to cite any evidence or any examples of partial information, wrong information. This is all cliched.” Limbaugh claimed, “this sheriff has not even made anything up, much less produced a scintilla of evidence that anything I've had would inspire such behavior.”

Limbaugh declared on Monday, “at no time has anybody who does what I do or I ever called for violence. I have never subtly promoted it, have never gone anywhere near it.”

Since I literally wrote the book about Rush (The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh's Assault on Reason, Thomas Dunne Books, March 2011), I would like to provide a few examples of Limbaugh's calls for violence from his website.

Speaking about the 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically-elected president, Limbaugh noted, “the coup was what many of you wish would happen here...”

A few days later, he again endorsed the idea of an American military coup against Obama: “If we had any good luck, Honduras would send some people here and help us get our government back.”

Of course, Limbaugh will never do more than dream about a military coup against President Obama. But the fact that he does dream about a coup, and constantly refers to Obama as a dictator, reflects how far from reality Limbaugh has strayed and how he is encouraging violence by his listeners.

Limbaugh was endorsing a violent revolution against the Obama Administration: “Do you realize, ladies and gentlemen, what we are living through right now is exactly why the Revolutionary War was fought?”

While he calls for violence against the Obama Administration, Limbaugh also imagines vast conspiracies run by Obama to kill people. After reading reports of executives at hedge funds getting death threats, he concluded that it was an Obama-run conspiracy: "probably ACORN people.... I'm sure it's coordinated. Obama has the network to do this."

There is no “network” of Obama minions threatening to kill people. But Limbaugh does not hesitate to falsely accuse the president of ordering death threats. And then Limbaugh has the hubris to cry with outrage when he is accurately described as using violent rhetoric.

Not only did Limbaugh repeatedly invoke the falsehood about “death panels” but he saw in it an Obama conspiracy to murder old people: “This is what dictators do...there's a reason, if you go back to world history, you go back to Cambodia, you go back to Mao Tse-tung in China, you go to Cuba, you go to old Soviet Union, one of the things they did was target -- Hitler, health care -- target the elderly. Target them. Why? Because they vote, they are more likely it [sic] vote, and they're more educated, they have more experience, they know more, they have been alive longer. You get rid of the people who know the past. You get rid of people who know how great the eighties were with a conservative economic policy, get rid of those people....”

It's just crazy to imagine that Obama is planning to murder millions of senior citizens in order to keep the mediocre economic growth of the Reagan Era a secret. But when Limbaugh claimed that Obama was plotting a mass extermination of the elderly in America, not one Republican politician stood up against him.

Limbaugh sees conspiracies everywhere. Limbaugh admitted that his immediate reaction to being criticized by Sheriff Dupnik was to suspect a vast political conspiracy: “My first thought was, "Who has he been talking to the last 12 hours? Who, if anybody in the Democrat apparatus, is coaching this guy?"

Limbaugh made some outrageous and obviously false claims about Dupnik, saying that he “probably wouldn't mind if the shooter is acquitted.” Limbaugh added about Loughner, “he's got a political party doing everything it can, plus a local sheriff doing everything that they can to make sure he's not convicted of murder.” Democrats are not trying to help the man who tried to assassinate a member of Congress. And no one imagines that a mass killer would be found not guilty of murder because talk show hosts used alarming rhetoric.

Limbaugh also claimed, “Sheriff Dupnik is trying to chill free speech. Isn't that a violation of the law? First Amendment?” No. Not at all. Dupnik was quite clear that he defends the First Amendment but feels that people like Limbaugh should be held morally responsibility for their incendiary words: “They have free speech, but I think with free speech comes some responsibility.” In fact, it's Limbaugh who is guilty of trying to chill free speech by bizarrely suggesting that it might be illegal for a sheriff to criticize Rush Limbaugh.

On Tuesday, Limbaugh compared conservatives criticized for their violent rhetoric to rape victims: “Yeah, that's what they used to tell women who were raped, isn't it? 'Just sit back and enjoy it.'"

Limbaugh often equate conservatives with rape victims. Discussing a man who made death threats to Nancy Pelosi, he declared: “Do you people in the White House, do you people in the media, do you ever stop to consider that you have an intelligent, informed electorate who simply doesn't like being raped, and being raped is what is happening to people in this country by their government. No other way to put this.”

To call America's moderate levels of taxation and regulation the equivalent of rape is an insult both to common sense and to women victimized by rape. To use it to defend death threats against female Democratic leaders is nothing but disgusting.

Limbaugh is not personally responsible for the crazed killer in Arizona. It's quite possible Loughner never heard Limbaugh's show.

But this whole controversy does reveal some important facts about Limbaugh.

Fact #1: Limbaugh uses violent rhetoric to describe Democrats and the Obama Administration.

Fact #2: Limbaugh promotes crazy conspiracy theories, from “death panels” to Obama-coordinated death threats and many more I detail in my book.

Fact #3: Limbaugh spreads lies about his enemies, and lies to cover up his own misconduct.

At any time, Limbaugh's lies and nutty conspiracy theories should be condemned by the political mainstream of Democrats and Republicans alike. But as Loughner and other crazy armed fanatics remind us, considering how obedient and deranged some of Limbaugh's listeners are, Limbaugh's comments about dictators and coups are not just idle chatter. They're dangerously irresponsible at a time when death threats against the first black president skyrocketed.

Two years ago on this date, Limbaugh was watching President George W. Bush bring him a chocolate cake shaped like a microphone and sing him “Happy Birthday.” Republican politicians are afraid to say anything bad about Limbaugh. Steve Benen wondered, “for once in their lives, will Republicans have the guts and decency to say, 'No, I think Rush Limbaugh is wrong'?”

So let's ask Republicans and demand that the media keep asking Republicans about Limbaugh's comments and whether they agree with what he says.

Crossposted at DailyKos.